Summary Of Seamus Heaney's Field Work

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Seamus Heaney's 1979 volume of poems, Field Work, contains a sequence known as the ‘Glanmore Sonnets’ written while he lived in a nineteenth-century cottage in Glanmore, Co. Wicklow. Lying at the heart of Field Work, this sonnet sequence deals with art, language, nature, and politics, reflecting Heaney's major themes. Fundamentally, it sees a return to the more traditional form of English sonnet as well as using language to transcend the concurrent political situation in the North of Ireland. By doing so, Heaney finds his own poetic voice, one which preaches reconciliation in the North. This study analyses the language and form of two sonnets from this sequence in particular, I and V. Furthermore, it will also discuss how these relate to and…show more content…
Firstly, phrases with negative connotations previously used by Heaney were transformed through cataphasis, in which words are subjected to affirmation through positive statements. Consequently, these phrases now had positive connotations. Secondly, the use of derivatives of elderberry promote a very powerful message by symbolising shared cultures in the North. Fundamentally, these uses of language coalesce to ensure that art- specifically poetry- almost becomes divine or godly, and in doing so it transcends politics to foster optimism for the future. Politics, as referred, and its negative situation in the North at the time of Heaney’s writing of the ‘Glanmore Sonnets’, was the result of British imperialism. Thus, cataphatic language is used in both sonnets I and V with subtle references to this imperialism, references which had previously been used in a negative manner. For example, in the first line of sonnet I the reader sees “Vowels ploughed into other: opened ground.” The phrase “opened ground” has been imported from ‘Act of Union’ where it refers to the wound left by British imperialism in Ireland. However, as this is clearly negative, the cataphatic use of language seen here serves to turn the phrase into something more positive. Cataphatic language is also used to describe the boortree in sonnet V. The boortree is the Scottish derivative of the English elderberry, with the latter also referred to in the sonnet. Heaney himself refers to it as a bower tree, which reflects the slight change words were subjected to when used in Ireland by Scottish settlers over time. The English term elderberry is described as “shires dreaming wine”. This phrase, with the word “shire” coming from the English county system, and “wine”, a reference to imperial privilege, provide a link to Heaney’s previous poem, ‘The Grauballe Man’. Within that, the Grauballe Man’s wound is described as a “dark
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